Lawmakers try to expand list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers try to expand list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits

Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.

The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.


In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.

But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.

Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.

On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.

“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.

A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.

According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.

Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.

“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.

“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”

In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.

“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.

The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.

While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”

“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.

Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.

A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.

“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 13th

Hump Day Horoscopes in your mouth, you nasty boots. Noadamus here, operator and internet prophet with crystal magic who can see the future. Okay, I made the crystal crap part up, but I was raised by hippies and weaned on goats’ milk, so open your ear holes and listen to PaPa Bear.


Go crazy. You’re not paying.

Aquarius

Some weeks suck, but not this one — not for you, at least. Your favorite kind of friends want to party, the ones who pay for everything. Money is basically falling into your pocket and your mental capacity is amped up to the max. You might even manage to keep your secret love affair hidden. Just watch your mouth through the weekend, because tempers run hot this week.

Pisces

Can’t go home ’cause you have to work past COB and Household 6 won’t shut up about it? Just take a deep breath, everything starts to look better closer to the weekend. You might even find some time to nerd out on whatever Dungeons Dragons spells you’re casting. By next Wednesday, you’re a powerhouse, smoldering and passionate.

Aries

Seriously dude (or dudette), chill the F’ out, ‘fore you give yo-self a hernia. Your energy is almost unlimited, but everyone’s patience is not. You’re kicking ass and taking names, crushing every PT event, and you’re goddamn Jonny Ringo at the range, but you don’t know everything, and next week, a family member won’t hesitate to remind you, repeatedly.

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You’re gonna get some attention. Doesn’t mean you want it.

Taurus

The weekend brings a surge of energy, useful during CQB and for meeting your future ex-girl/boyfriend. Your tactical knowledge pays off and thrusts you into a leadership role, but causes you more disruption than your stubborn ass would care for. You are likely to be recognized as the subject-matter expert.

Gemini

Wednesday has you on edge. Take a knee and drink water. You’ll live… probably. Not everyone is out to get you, and people still like you, and yes, everybody thinks you’re clever. Snuggle up with your woobie, and if you can suck it up until next week, your silver tongue will return and you’ll be a superstar at work again. Speaking of stars, if you got pipes, middle of next week is a great time to rock an open mic.

Cancer

Whatever secrets you’re hiding are subject to rumor and gossip this Wednesday. Just remember your SERE training: say nothing, and by the weekend, people will move on to more interesting talk. Early next week, everyone from your significant other to the MPs to the crustiest Gunny in the division wants to butt heads with you. And they call you sensitive? By the middle of next week, things are starting to look up.

You’re really only sabotaging yourself.

Leo

Remember that one time you let your friends talk you into doing the stupid-ass sh*t that almost got you court-martialed? Oh wait, that’s this Wednesday. Pull your head out of your ass, Corporal, and try not to pick any more fights at work. Next week looks good for your wallet; guess all that day-trading is finally paying off.

Virgo

Wednesday is a trifecta of suck. The house (or family) is demanding money, friends and coworkers are overly argumentative, and your buddy told everyone about your browser history. It’s called cyber security. Seriously, sergeant. Next week sucks, too, but at least after the weekend, nobody is busting your balls at work. I’m prescribing some meditation classes — you must chillax.

Libra

Why you stirring up so much shit? Your neighbors are pissed, the morons in your unit are pissed, every damn instructor you have to deal with is pissed. You need to ask yourself — who’s actually the asshole here? Here’s a hint: It’s you, you pretentious snob. You cannot win all of these battles and some of these people are on your side. Don’t be such a blue falcon, buddy f*cker.

It’s probably for the best that you still live in the barracks.

Scorpio

If all of your idiot friends overdraft their credit cards at the gentlemen’s club, does that mean you will, too? Dumb question, we both know you will. Don’t wake up Thursday morning five bills in the hole. In fact, this Wednesday and every night through this weekend, just stay in the barracks and watch a documentary on Buddha or something. Oh yeah, don’t let your aggression get the better of you next week.

Sagittarius

You’re bleeding money trying to keep up with your rent and your drinking escapades. Don’t get mad when people get pissed off by your scandalous behavior and your inability to commit to a relationship. The good news is that next week you will remember you have a job and, even though you will not have the most squared away uniform, your aggression will inspire others and make peers and supervisors alike forget how much of a flake you are.

Capricorn

Trust me, I really want to lie to you and say things are looking up, but… things continue to be terrible for you and you will continue to be a moody asshole. You can’t use this excuse to be a miserable human being; you’re better than that. If you have children, keep them occupied this week or they might burn down your house, and no one wants to listen to you b*tch anymore.

Humor

8 reasons Marines hate on the Navy

The Navy and Marines spend a lot of time together for obvious reasons. Like anyone you spend too much time with, they start to get on each others’ nerves.


How, you might ask?

Only in the Navy! (Image via GIPHY)

Related: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

8. Discipline.

When it comes to discipline, Marines are top tier. The Navy can learn a lot from Marines and have plenty of opportunities to do so while on a ship. Unfortunately for sailors, the kind of discipline Marines have is learned during their boot camp, which is actually hard.

7. Camouflage uniforms.

We get it, you’re sailors. Your camouflage blends in with water – but that’s the problem. I’ve seen those coveralls you wear on a ship, so I understand you don’t wear the blue digitals when you’re underway, but those coveralls are blue, too. What are you going to do when someone falls off the ship at night?

There are blue coveralls, then there’s freakin’ blue. Good luck getting spotted at night while you’re drowning in the ocean.

6. Funding.

It’s no secret the Marines get the scraps from the Department of Navy’s funds (don’t get me started on that). The Navy likely needs it for those big-ass boats. But how many of those mugs in the wardroom were purchased with government money?

Come on, now.

5. Marines are a department of the Navy.

Yeah, I’m getting started on that. Everyone already knows we’re the men’s department. We use your boats to get around on deployments, but beyond that, our relationship isn’t all that special.

You’re like that weird relative that always brings up unnecessary politics at Thanksgiving dinner.

4. “Ship tax.”

We understand that everyone living on a ship is subject to the “ship tax.” For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s basically where everyone pays a toll to the captain. A sailor or Marine must perform a special duty on the ship.

This usually devolves into Marines working in the trash room with the Navy’s “special” sailors.

3. Ranks and rates.

When I first joined the Marine Corps, I thought I had a grasp of the Navy’s ranks. I knew it would hold some importance during my time, but I was sadly mistaken.

When I got to the Fleet Marine Force, I learned that the Navy also had rates which are specific to their job. Long story short, it’s just too confusing for Marines.

We get you’re a petty officer, but does that symbol mean?

2. Deployments

Navy deployments are frequent — just like that annoying ex — and more frequent than Marine deployments. Sure, Marines have to do all that pre-deployment combat training, but this Infantry Marine would have enjoyed more deployments.

Spread the love, guys.

1. The Navy is our closest sibling

The relationship between the branches of the armed forces is unique, but the relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps is one of a kind.

As long as both have existed, they’ve been working symbiotically with each other. Marines are amphibious, so they need the Navy’s ships to get around. But at the end of the day, it’s a sibling rivalry.

Just like brothers, we give each other crap for everything.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans are using writing to heal

Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”


Inspiration and healing

Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.

Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”

During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.

Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.

“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One year and one week later: where military families stand following the housing crisis

As military spouses, we are all too familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When it comes to the health and safety of our families in our homes, enough is enough.


When we heard from our network that families were struggling with the safety and deterioration of their military homes, we mobilized the Military Family Advisory Network’s research process so that we could learn more. Our goal was simple: understand what is happening through scientific data. Good data can be powerful and hard to ignore.

We created a survey that allowed us to take a deep dive into the issue, and we shared what we learned with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the general public. We made sure our data was actionable, because our priority is shortening the time between the identification of an issue and the deployment of a solution.

Sadly, it has been one year and one week since we released findings from our Privatized Military Housing Survey, and families are still struggling. It should not have taken a survey with nearly 17,000 military families sharing their experiences with us – many of which were severe – to drive change. The entire country heard about what was happening in military housing in the nightly news, in the paper, and on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of heartbreaking stories, the brave testimonies from military spouses, the news coverage, and the compelling data, families are still struggling.

Based on what we hear, we believe that those who are entrusted with fixing this issue are on the right path, but we also know that there is a long way to go. We understand that for the military families who have spent months in temporary housing or hotels, who have thrown away thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture due to water damage, have lived with pests, and worst of all, who are struggled with the health-implications that can be associated with mold or lead, actions speak louder than words. We understand that the trust between military families and housing offices (and those charged with oversight) continues to erode as families wait for a Tenant Bill of Rights and increased accountability.

We commit to keeping the pressure up and continuing to learn from families who share their experiences with us, and we commit to doing so in collaboration with everyone who has a vested interest in supporting our community. That is why MFAN created the Military Housing Roundtable. During our first meeting, we took a step back to answer a few key questions: What is happening that is causing families to choose to live in military housing? Do military families have other safe and affordable options? Or, do they feel stuck? Based on these questions, here’s what we know:

We need to bring together public and private agencies to ensure that military families have a central hub where they can get the information they need.

We need to explore what is happening in housing and rental markets near installations.

We need to educate families on the Service Member Civil Relief act, so they know their rights when they are signing a lease or need to move.

We need to teach families the dangers of mold and lead, show them where to look, how to safely navigate these hazards, and where to turn for help if they discover them in their homes.

Most importantly, we need to elevate the voices of military families, because as the last year has shown us, their experiences matter. MFAN is proud to have provided the microphone for these families through our research. We are honored to be able to create collaborative solutions with Roundtable attendees – which included nonprofits, military and veteran service organizations, subject matter experts on environmental risks, the Department of Defense, the military services, and businesses with a mission of supporting military families.

We are committed to rallying together to fix this because we all know one thing for certain: military families deserve a safe place to live, raise their families, and call home.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the WWI battle between Mexico and the US

In 1917, British codebreakers intercepted a message from the German Foreign Minister bound for the German Legation to Mexico. The infamous message, now known as the Zimmerman Telegram, offered Mexico the territory it “lost” to the United States if they joined the ongoing World War I on the German side should the Americans join with the British. They very nearly did when one border clash almost sparked a full-scale war.


The U.S. never forgot the message (once the British showed it to them… and it was published in the United States press). It would turn President Wilson’s sentiment against Germany and help lead the Americans into the European war.

At home, it exacerbated tensions in towns on the American-Mexican border, which were already feeling tense because of Pancho Villa’s raids across the border and Gen. John J. Pershing’s “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico.

One border town, in particular, was feeling the tension. Nogales, which straddles the border in the U.S. state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora, was a town where anyone could cross into either country by simply walking across the street – International Street.

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (left) and Nogales, Ariz., USA in 1899. Arizona was not yet a U.S. state. (National Archives)

In 1918, the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Division began receiving reports of “strange Mexicans” explaining military tactics and movements to the Federal Mexican garrison stationed in and around Nogales. After the publishing of the Zimmerman Telegram, these reports warranted seriously attention.

Even some of Pancho Villa’s former troops, who were disgusted by men they called Germans, addressed crowds and agitated the Mexican populace against the United States. The Army began to suspect German influence was at work and moved elements of the 10th Cavalry – the Buffalo Soldiers – into Nogales.

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (left) and Nogales, Ariz., USA (right) around 2008.

The tension boiled over on Aug. 27, 1918, when a Mexican carpenter was trying to cross the border. He ignored U.S. customs officials who ordered the man to stop (because he was listening to Mexican customs officials ordering him to continue).

Shots were fired by the Americans. The Mexicans returned fire. The Battle of Ambos Nogales had begun.

Between two and five Mexican customs officers and an Army private were killed (the carpenter was not) as citizens in Mexico ran to their homes to grab their weapons and ammo. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Soldiers arrived and captured the hills overlooking the city. Mexican snipers also began to take shots in the streets of American Nogales.

Mexican troops began to dig trenches as American troops began to move house-to-house. By this time, the American soldiers were taking heavy fire from the Mexicans, both regular troops and citizens. So, American citizens took to their homes – and their guns – to take firing positions near the border. The U.S. 35th Infantry even fired a machine gun into the Mexican positions.

Machine Gun Co, 35th Infantry, Nogales, Ariz. 1917. (Photo courtesy of John Carr)

Suddenly, a lone figure walked among the bodies of Mexicans and U.S. troops in the street, waving a white handkerchief tied to a cane, the mayor of Mexican Nogales tried to de-escalate the situation by pleading with his citizens to put down their arms. He was shot from the Arizona side of the border.

It wouldn’t be until 7:45 that day, after just over three hours of fighting, that the Mexicans waved a white flag from their customs house. American buglers sounded “Cease Fire” and order was, eventually, restored.

In order to prevent such violence from happening again, the town constructed the first-ever border fence between Mexico and the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why war with Iran might be a lot more difficult than the US thinks

If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.


And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.

The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.

Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military

Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.

That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.

In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.

Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.

Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics of an F-35 in the snow-covered mountains are epic

The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.

They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”

While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.


As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.

That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.

And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.

H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 Old-Time celebrity favorites who wanted to join the OSS

When William “Wild Bill” Donovan created the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he was looking to create a truly unique intelligence outfit whose ranks included the least suspicious group of spies, saboteurs, and strongmen who were willing to infiltrate enemy countries and gather intelligence for the Allied cause. This precursor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency included a number of famous agents.


Actor John Wayne visiting troops in Brisbane, Australia.

John Wayne

For such a military supporter to not have served in the military seems strange – and it seemed strange to him too. As a matter of fact, his service (or lack thereof) during World War II seemed to follow the actor for the rest of his life. But when he died, a certificate was found among his personal papers, from William Donovan, commander of the OSS, thanking him for his service to the office. All the Duke ever divulged about WWII service was gathering information while on a trip to Brisbane to entertain American troops, but ever since his death rumors swirled about what exactly his roles could have been. Only two people knew for sure – Wayne and Donovan.

Moe Berg

Moe Berg was possibly one of the most brilliant Americans who ever lived. And his service to the OSS was invaluable. Berg personally jumped into occupied Norway to help take down a Nazi heavy water plant in an attempt to keep the Third Reich from its nuclear ambitions. But Berg’s most valuable service was capturing film of important Japanese military targets while on a goodwill baseball trip before the war. A film he happily provided American authorities.

Marlene Dietrich

Before the United States entered World War II, Marlene Dietrich was way ahead of the game in hating on Hitler. After helping Jews escape persecution with her Hollywood salary, she renounced her German citizenship. During the war, she made so many trips to the front to entertain the troops, it was said she’d seen more action than General Eisenhower. The OSS recruited Dietrich to record propaganda songs in German to demoralize the enemy.

Julia Child

Before she began serving up French cuisine, TV Chef Julia Child was serving up French freedom with the OSS. She began her career working directly for Donovan, writing the names of agents on index cards. She later helped develop shark repellant for the OSS to keep sharks from detonating sabotage charges intended for German u-boats. Child also worked as the head of the OOS registry in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) memorizing every message that passed through her office.

John Steinbeck

The Of Mice and Men author and World War II correspondent was one of the earliest recruits for the Office of Strategic Services. In 1942, Steinbeck penned The Moon Is Down as an epic piece of pro-Norwegian propaganda that was translated into Danish and distributed by the Danish Resistance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

There will be no major strategy changes in Afghanistan

U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel says he does not expect major changes in military strategy as a result of an updated assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan currently being conducted.

“I don’t envision something…that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress,” Votel told a news briefing in Washington on July 19.

Votel said his review work was more designed to consider adjustments that might be required to help Kabul reach its goal of bringing Taliban militants to the negotiating table.


As of July 20, 2018, it is reported that there have been 2412 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

Media reports earlier in July stated the United States was planning to undertake a major strategy review for the 17-year war effort in Afghanistan and that U.S. President Donald Trump was frustrated by a lack of progress. The U.S. administration at the time denied that a major reassessment was planned.

Trump on August 21, 2017, announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, leading to an eventual increase in the number of troops deployed to country, and backtracking on campaign pledges to end U.S. involvement there.

Officials said Trump had authorized an additional 3,000 U.S. troops, bringing the U.S. contingent in the NATO-led effort to about 15,000, although media have quoted administration officials as saying the president was reluctant to do so.

Trump also upped the pressure on neighboring Pakistan, saying the authorities there were providing safe havens to militants operating in Afghanistan and attacking U.S. forces.

Votel cited positive signs from Islamabad, but he urged Pakistan to arrest, expel, or target the militants with military action.

“We also need to see [Pakistan] continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.

Also read: Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before

Earlier this month, Taliban leaders said they would not negotiate with the Kabul government after a first-ever cease-fire between the two sides coinciding with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr raised hopes of jumpstarting long-stalled talks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani dismissed the Taliban’s rejection of his offer of peace talks, suggesting that the militant group can still be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul on July 16, Ghani said the Taliban’s opposition to peace talks was not “a full rejection.”

“It’s like when you ask someone’s hand in marriage and the family of the bride says no several times [before relenting],” Ghani said, referring to a culture in which refusal is seen as a sign of humility. “In reality, it is likely that we will get a positive answer.”

The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, as well as Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda militants, nearly two decades after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

IS and Al-Qaeda were not included in the recent government-announced cease-fires.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Mountain fighting was hell for Italy’s elite WWI shock troops

World War I’s western front stretched from the English Channel to the Adriatic Sea and passed through the Italian Alps. The soldiers there were miserable and the conflict was characterized by long, bloody deadlock.

Life for soldiers of the Italian Army was no different. They were poorly equipped and trained, which was even worse horrible when combined with the incompetence of many high-ranking officers. This lack of leadership and equipment is a key reason Austro-Hungarian troops were able to invade the northeast part of Italy.


Soldiers on WWI’s Italian front fought enemies, frostbite, and avalanches.

In 1915, a sudden breakthrough came for the Italians in the form of a special operations unit. Some Italian officers and enlisted men volunteered to go behind enemy lines to gather information and create confusion among their enemies. These volunteers took the name of “Esploratori Arditi” – or “hardy explorers.”

These men were noted for their bravery and initiative and, by the end of the year, the first companies of Arditi were ready for action. Many of their fellow soldiers called them “Companies of the Death” because of the high number of casualties they both suffered and inflicted.

The Arditi led several attacks into the enemy trenches, quite often armed only with grenades and knives. One of their actions is described in the official records relative to the Silver Medal of Honor granted to Capt. Cristoforo Baseggio.

Arditi were issued unique equipment, like this diamond visor.

In 1916, Baseggio led an isolated column of 1500 men — about 200 Arditi and the rest mountain troopers. He ordered an attack on two enemy strongholds at Saint Osvaldo, one at an elevation of 1100 meters and the second at 1440. Even though it was April, there was still snow on the mountains. Soldiers climbed their way up, sliding and falling along the way. Their hands were covered in cuts etched in by frozen crags. Donkeys followed behind, pulling the artillery pieces.

Once they arrived, the soldiers spent the night digging trenches and foxholes. Between 5am and 9am, the Beech trees that hid the Austrians became a hell of flames and metal.

Two companies of mountain troops were sent to the right and to the left sides of the Austrian trenches. The Arditi were ready to attack the center just as soon as artillery blew away the barbed wires. They engaged the enemy in furious hand-to-hand combat, forcing the defenders to fall back, inward to the second line of trenches that encircled the mountain like a crown.

From their higher position, the Austrians managed to trap the Italians in the very trenches they conquered. The first two companies sent by Capt. Baseggio should have joined the action, attacking the enemy from the sides, but never showed up. The captain decided to go look for them himself. He ran through the snow, dodging bullets and hopping over corpses.

Soon, he found the two companies of Arditi pinned down by enemy fire. By all practical measures, his pincer maneuver had failed, so he decided to return to the central section with more of his men. While the reinforcements couldn’t get close enough to the Arditi, the sight of their captain gave the the Hardy Explorers strength enough to push forward again and recapture the trench

Fighting on the Italian Front was particularly brutal.

The two Austrian companies on higher up the hill managed to hold the attackers for a time, but without reinforcements, they were not able to hold it for very long. As was typical of World War I, the Italians gained and lost the trench several times — each advance cost them dearly. On a third attack, the Italians reached the second trench, fighting over piles of corpses made up of troops of both armies. From the nearby high ground, an Italian Lieutenant could see the battle. He wrote,

“The fight on the other side of the valley intensifies more and more, it will soon involve me and my men. I’m separated from my comrades by four hours of rough march. It has been 36 hours that we have not eaten, but we will join our brothers in arms.”

The shocking thunders of artillery were interspersed with moments of silence, during which the men fought each other with knives and bayonets. A mountain trooper named Turin used all of his grenades to clean a trench in the highest position. Then, he jumped in to find an Austrian who had stood his ground in face of the bombardment. Turin’s rifle jammed and the Austrian managed to rip off part of the Italian trooper’s skull.

His comrades arrived and killed the Austrian. Turin wanted to continue the attack, even with his face covered by a horrible mask of blood. He couldn’t stand properly because of the shock. Only the resolute order of his superior convinced him to retreat — but not before cursing the now-dead Austrian one last time.

Arditi became known for their knife-fighting skills.

Forced to step back, the Italians retreated downhill once more, the last of them was a Lt. Rabaioli, who ran back smiling — holding six rifles stolen from the enemy.

After two days of battle and with the reinforcements of Lt. Bongiovanni, Capt. Baseggio took the first of the two strongholds — and went immediately on to recon the second, which was defended by an Austrian battalion. He spent the entire next day attacking this position, using his advantage of artillery in higher position to rain hell on the enemy.

By the end of the day, only a quarter of his company of Arditi — about 50 men — were still able to fight. Exhausted, he gathered and aligned the remaining Arditi in the open and inspected the weapons. Then, they all started marching in a parade in front of the enemy, who, astonished, ceased the fire and abandoned the position.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X selected for the next phase of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program

The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.


BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc

twitter.com

As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.

“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Bell 360 Invictus – Penetrate Defensive Positions

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The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.

One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:

Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.

Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.

The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.

Meet Sikorsky RAIDER X™.

www.youtube.com

Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy Coast Guard rescue of an Air Force pilot in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.


Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The 11 Coast Guard pilots selected for the program went through months of special training in survival, tactics, and the aircraft they would be flying, the HH-3E, before flying to Vietnam to start their tours.

In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.

A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.

(U.S. Air Force)

On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.

He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.

A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.

(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.

So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.

With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.

An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.

(U.S. Air Force)

Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.

Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.

Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.

The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.

He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.